The City of Jonesville’s water plant. Courtesy | Rick Mahoney

By next spring, the City of Jonesville plans to have more advanced tech­nology and equipment for fil­tering water and reading water meters.

Jonesville’s water plant, built in the early 1970s, was in need of repairs, according to Rick Mahoney, water and waste­water super­in­tendent for Jonesville. A water system improvement fact sheet, put out by the City of Jonesville, notes that the original equipment will be replaced with more modern equipment to better ensure safe drinking water for residents. 

The updated system, including pressure filters, will con­tinue to help oxidize iron in the water more effi­ciently, Mahoney said. Funds for the projects are coming from the city, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Devel­opment program, and Jonesville’s Local Devel­opment Finance Authority. 

Jonesville City Manager Jeff Gray said these updates will renew the plant to keep running well for several more decades.

“The water treatment plant is more than 40 years old,” Gray said. “Our staff has done a very good job of oper­ating the plant, but it’s reached its natural life span. That’s going to take place anytime you’re pumping water 24/7 through a facility.”

The process for fil­tering the city’s water will remain unchanged, but the plant will have new well pumps, a new aer­ation system, and updated com­mu­ni­cation equipment, according to Mahoney. The city, Gray said, uses ground water aquifers. They then dis­solve the iron from the water before treating it with chlorine and flu­oride. The water is then sent out to the busi­nesses and res­i­dents in Jonesville.

According to the city’s fact sheet, iron in water is safe to drink, but it can “affect the appearance and taste of the water.” Mean­while, the chlorine and flu­oride are used to ensure the water is clean for drinking.

Gray said the chal­lenge of ren­o­vating the water treatment plant is doing all the nec­essary work without shutting off the city’s water. This means they need to ren­ovate the facility in stages. They aim to have the plant mostly ren­o­vated by the spring.

The city will also be updating the meter-reading process for local cus­tomers. The city’s fact sheet says in most cases, the wireless trans­mitter will be mounted on the outside of the building. The new meters will send signals to the city hall offices, allowing for instan­ta­neous water usage readings, which will help the city keep an eye out for spikes in water usage, according to Gray. Mahoney said cus­tomers will also be warned if there is a spike in water usage. 

Some cus­tomers have already had boxes installed, and the rest should be changed out and ready to be imple­mented by the winter, Gray said.

With the new meter, the plant doesn’t have to send out employees to do routine checks on-site. This will free up employees to work on other things, making the whole process more effi­cient, Mahoney said.

One of the ben­efits for cus­tomers is that they will know right away if some­thing is wrong with their water. 

Because the plant only reads meters every two months as of now, a cus­tomer might have two months of high water bills if they don’t know there’s an issue with their water usage. Now, the cus­tomer will be notified immediately.

“For the cus­tomers, there will be a feature with a red flag. So if they nor­mally use 300 gallons, and it jumps up to 2,000, the meter will red flag it,” he said. “We’ll be able to contact the cus­tomers to let them know.”

Gray said the city got a favorable bid from HydroCorp to take care of instal­la­tions for the new water meters. 

“HydroCorp is han­dling all of it on our behalf. They are sending out notices. There are mul­tiple ways to schedule an instal­lation. People can call, or go to an online portal,” Gray said. “We tell people it’s typ­i­cally about 30 minutes to do the meter instal­lation, and the water shut off on the premises during that time.”

When it comes to funding these projects, Gray and Mahoney said the city had been setting aside money for this over the last several years. 

As a small, rural com­munity, Gray said Jonesville was also eli­gible for funds from the USDA, and they obtained a low-interest loan. 

This loan, he said, will allow the city to accom­plish the major ren­o­vation projects. Gray also noted that the Local Devel­opment Finance Authority’s con­tri­bu­tions for the next few years will help offset the interest rates on the USDA loan.

“We know you can’t do a $2.5 million project on a system our size without increasing fees,” Gray said. “But we planned ahead.”